Brave New Government?

Crossposted at The Rockefeller Republican


Barack Obama is the first major politician who really “gets” the Internet. Sure, Howard Dean used the Web to raise money. But Obama used it to build an army. And now, that army of digital kids expects to stick around and help him govern. Crowd-sourced online brainstorming sessions? Web sites where regular folks hash out policy ideas and vote yea or nay online? A new government computer infrastructure that lets people get a look into the workings of Washington, including where the money flows and how decisions get made? Yes to all those and more. “This was not just an election-this was a social movement,” says Don Tapscott, author of Grown Up Digital, which chronicles the lives of 20-somethings raised on computers and the Web. “I’m convinced,” Tapscott says, “that we’re in the early days of fundamental change in the nature of democracy itself.” – Daniel Lyons and Daniel Stone NEWSWEEK

There is no denying we live in a technological age where the idea of communication is evolving faster and faster each year. But before we leap into this brave new world of government, which is instantly responsive and instantaneously lead by the masses we should stop and seriously consider what exactly we are getting ourselves into. Should the general populace be that empowered?

The Founding Fathers did not even want the senate or the president to be elected by the general public, never mind have regular brainstorming sessions with them. For all the complaining about the electoral college in the modern era, it was exactly this body that was suppose to shield the highest reaches of government from the uninformed and/or misinformed masses. The thought then was that the common farmers and laborers were not adequately educated in the issues, and did not have the requisite knowledge to make informed decisions about important governmental matters. Have we really changed that much? Remember most of the new digital age gets its news from John Stewart, Jay Leno et al. For all the attention that Joe the Plumber got in the recent election cycle, does anyone on either side of the political spectrum want him expounding on economic theory to Obama via a fireside web chat? I’ll stick with Larry Summers myself.

Whatever the risks, the president-elect has made it clear he wants all those voices at the table, building a grass-roots-style government that won’t always agree with him. That could mean tens of millions of voices, all with different thoughts and priorities, constantly fighting for one man’s ear.

Aside from the questionable qualifications of the masses, there is also the issue of too many hands in the kitchen. Anyone who has ever sat on a committee, whether it is on the job or in the local PTA, knows, more voices do not necessarily mean better decisions. In fact the opposite is often true. And besides, once the novelty wears off most people abandon the committee and the real work is left to the few who are truly committed to the cause. Between our jobs, our families, our passion and hobbies, there is often little time at the end of the day to devote to auto bail outs, energy policy or international relations. This is why we elect leaders.

If Obama truly wants to change how government works maybe he should reach father back into the past than FDR and the New Deal for inspiration. The Founding Fathers knew something about human nature and how a government should work. Maybe we should listen?

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